Young musicians compose original works


Composers receive opportunity to hear work performed live

PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS / The Journal Thomas Feng, 17, accepts his certificate from Carol Commerford, director of the Community Music School, at the 2011 Young Composers Competition concert on Saturday, Dec. 3. Feng won first place in Level 2 for his piece, “Lianas.”

The music of young composers rang through the concert hall of the Community Music School on Saturday, Dec. 3. Young composers from around the country entered their original pieces in the Community Music School’s eighth annual Young Composers’ Competition. Out of 52 entries, seven won.

Professional musicians from Webster University and the St. Louis area performed the seven winning composers’ work at the concert. For Riley Crabtree, 19, he was hearing his work for the first time. His piece, “Jovial Suite,” won an honorable mention at the second level for ages 17 to 21. Crabtree described his work as a light-hearted, two-movement work for a string quartet.

“It’s completely different than what I expected so this was kind of a weird experience for me,” Crabtree, a Vanderbilt University sophomore, said. “I was kind of caught off guard. It was an interesting experience too, because I didn’t have any time to talk to the performers so I got to find out exactly how they would interpret it with just the score. That tells me how well I portray what I wanted them to play just in the score, which is really important.”

Crabtree said he started composing at 9, about a year after he started piano lessons.

“I’ve always loved creating things, whether it be Legos or drawing,” Crabtree said. “It’s just a love of mine. I’m not really content to reproduce things. I want to create them.”

The youngest to enter was Eleanor Bragg, 14, from Brookline, Mass. Her violin-vibrophone composition, “Introspections,” placed second place at Level 1 for composers ages 12 to 16.

Ari Korotkin, 16, was the first place winner in Level 1 with piano duet titled, “Suite in G Major.” Korotkin’s inspiration was his three older sisters — Allison, 23; Hailee, 21; and Rachel, 18 — and his experiences growing up with them.

“Over the years I’ve become closer to them so I’ve gotten to know them a lot better. In this piece, there is a lot of how I saw them as a kid, how they were all older than I was and developed their own personalities, and I was trying to be like them in some ways and not be like them in other ways, and copy them,” Korotkin said. “So I had this idea of who they were; whether it’s Hailee who’s kind of crazy and all over the place, or Rachel who seemed to always have everything under control, or Allison who is very driven.”

A string quartet performed the guest composer, Dr. Stephen Dankner’s, “String Quartet No. 11.” Two movements comprise the piece. The first is his “Allegro Spirituous,” inspired by summer, and the second is his “Adagio Lamentoso,” inspired by winter. He also critiqued each of the seven winning compositions for the young composers. Crabtree, a veteran of the competition who placed in 2008 and 2009, recommended Dankner to Carol Commerford, director of the Community Music School.

“He’s a fantastic composer and we played an orchestral work of his that is fairly recent called ‘The Apocolypse of St. John,’ for the Portland Youth Philharmonic,” Crabtree said. “I was privileged to get to meet with him and share a lesson with him.”

Crabtree has entered and placed three times in the competition now. Because the contest offers no prize money, Crabtree looks forward to hearing his work played by professional musicians.

“Anytime you can get the opportunity for someone to play your works is something to grasp onto,” Crabtree said. “The repertoire of classical music is dominated by people who’ve been dead for centuries. It’s very difficult having new music heard, as you can see by the large number of empty seats in the audience, but it’s a blessing for my piece to be heard at all and I’m thankful for that.”


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